Home Consumer Proposed Zoo Water Park “Tamed”, Opposition Mounts

Proposed Zoo Water Park “Tamed”, Opposition Mounts

Artist renderings from Miami Wilds

By Al Sunshine, President of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, Inc., July 25, 2015 – Zoo Miami’s proposed billion-dollar “Miami Wilds” Project is getting a re-design following environmental concerns it would damage Globally Endangered Lands in the nearby Richmond Pine Rocklands, according to several recently published reports.

The move follows months of meetings with local environmentalists, Miami Dade county planners and developers to figure out how to comply with a 2006 Voter referendum approving Zoo Expansion on existing County Lands that are not environmentally sensitive.

Miami Wlid’s earlier Plans called for a massive theme park, entertainment district and hotel.

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Faith Based Events

But it required environmentally-sensitive lands currently owned by the Federal Government and home to possibly dozens of rare and endangered plants and animals.

It’s also the only known habitat of the nearly-extinct Miami Tiger Beetle.

Following warning letters by the U-S Department of Interior that un-approved development there could possibly result in Federal Fines and Criminal Charges, Miami Dade and Miami Wilds Officials began looking for ”alternative designs”.

The Developers’ latest plans reportedly call for separate Phase-1 projects in existing Zoo Miami Parking Lots and some paved-over areas of the former Richmond Naval Air Station.

It’s unclear if it would require bulldozing and paving over any nearby Richmond Pine Rocklands described as “Globally Imperiled” and currently under limited Federal Protection by the U-S Endangered Species Act.

But critics argue the new plans, which have not been publicly released, still don’t address many critical questions: What exactly will be built, where, what level of Public Funding will it require and how will developers deal with horrible traffic jams already facing nearby residents and commuters’ daily?

Cully Waggoner is a nearby resident who continues to oppose any development there.

He’s a Board Member of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition and writes,

“Sadly all I see in this story is a multibillion dollar corporation run by multimillionaire executives going to screw over the citizens of Miami-Dade County yet again. Anyone remember “The Wizard of Oz”, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

No, these developers don’t want you, the citizens, to pay attention to the details. Just look at the shiny new Water Park and don’t think about the $130 million tax break the County is going to give these millionaires. Remember that is $130 million LESS to use for County Services that YOU the taxpaying citizen just might need.

Sorry the Police or Fire departments were late to respond, the money for more personnel went to a theme park. Sorry about increasing your daily commute by 30 minutes, those guys that built the theme park didn’t pay for road improvements and the County can’t. Sorry about the other public parks you used to go to, they had to be closed due to budget cuts because of that theme park. Stop for a moment to think about what a project like this really costs the average Miami-Dade Taxpayer.

Remember Marlins Park and the billions lost by the City to multibillionaires. Everybody is for a shiny new theme park until they realize what it will actually cost them. Remember it is NOT the Developers, Consultants, Engineers or Construction companies that will be stuck in traffic or suffer the loss of some County services. It will be the thousands of citizens that live in Deerwood, Bonita Lakes, Three Lakes and Country Walk that will be. The developers and all associated will have a nice pay day, laughing all the way to the Bank, while the rest of us suffer. Think about that the next time you’re stuck on Coral Reef Drive trying to get to the Turnpike.

The Referendum the voters voted for in 2006 was for a Miami Zoo Entertainment Area and clearly stated to develop an entertainment district “on Metro Zoo property on land that is not environmentally sensitive and is outside the animal attractions”. That is NOT the U.S. Coast Guard site, NOR is it Southern Anchor. The legal description is CLEARLY the Hanger 3 area of the former Naval Air Station Richmond and the Zoo Parking Lot, which was the main landing pad for the former blimp base, NO OTHER LAND AROUND THE ZOO CAN OR SHOULD BE DEVELOPED.

Miami Wilds main development area (the now second phase) is 119 acres that is currently occupied by Southern Anchor and the U.S. Coast Guard. So if the County abides by what the voters voted for, like they SHOULD do, the County CANNOT build Miami Wilds as planned. The voters did not vote for the U.S. Coast Guard or Southern Anchor apartments to be moved at all. This is why now the talk of just Phase 1, a scaled back version of Miami Wilds.

It is interesting to note that while Ram Realty, the other developer on the Richmond Tract, has proposed preserving 52 acres out of 138 acres they have to develop for a Walmart retail and residential center called Coral Reef Commons, the developers of Miami Wilds have not presented an HPC or announced how many acres they are going to preserve. In fact the trees and foliage along the Hanger 3 footprint on Zoo property and the Hanger 2 footprint on Gold Coast Railroad Museum site would be torn down and paved over for parking. The song lyrics “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” will come true if this is allowed to happen.

There are so many non-sensitive not environmentally endangered tracts of land around Miami-Dade County to build a Theme park and yet another Walmart on. Yes, we need to add more tax revenue to Miami-Dade County and South Dade is the perfect and quite frankly the only place left to do this. Yet, we need to be smart about what we do. Why are low paying dead end jobs our only option? I am not against development, however I am against stupid development that does little to no good for the County and some of which burdens the taxpayers with reduced services and infrastructure, not to mention wipes out a huge chunk of the last 2% of endangered Pine Rocklands and the more than a dozen endangered species that live in that habitat.

Water parks and theme parks come and go, but extinct is forever.”

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Al Sunshine is a South Florida-based Broadcast and Digital Journalist whose career has spanned more than 40 years at the local and national levels. His award-winning investigations have triggered more than a dozen state and local consumer protection laws and his work’s been cited in Congressional Testimony before the U-S House of Representatives. He is best known for his “Shame On You” features for CBS Miami which sought to expose businesses, agencies and individuals defrauding or deceiving consumers, as well as endangering the safety and welfare of the general public. In 2013 Al retired from CBS Miami to set up his own Digital News Business, “Sunshine News, LLC” and Al continues to blog for the Radio, Television, Digital News Association, sponsors of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards”. An avid environmentalist, Al is one of the founding members of the “Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition”. The Florida Non-Profit is fighting to save and restore the last 2% of Pine Rocklands found only in South Florida and nowhere else in the continental United States. Al was recently elected its President.